On the path of self-awareness, as we progress through this apparently heightened time of the Transition, I’m watching my own ego operate and seeing validated some things that were said many, many years ago about its nature and methods. I’d like to share to reveal my own ego to itself.
I mentioned earlier that the est Training was an exercise in recreating the way the mind operates so that the mind, seen, would fall silent. Perhaps this can be an exercise in revealing the ego to itself for whatever advantage that that presents.
I think my ego operates in standard fashion so there may be value here for others. Maybe not.
The fundamental process of the ego, as I see it revealed in my own operations, is the self-serving bias. What does that mean? It means that the ego operates to represent matters in a way that is advantageous to itself. So I operate to cast things in ways that represent myself as winning and others as losing, me as the critical factor in success and others as the critical factor in failure, and my gains as noteworthy and others’ losses as noteworthy.
Put another way, when I operate as my ego, I maximize my own success and minimize my failures, retell events as if my input was crucial to success and others’ was not, and selectively remember my own part in all things that worked out and selectively forget my own part in things that did not.
I suggest that this is the game plan, the modus operandi, the way of being of the ego.
By the workings of the self-serving bias, I seek to get ahead of others. I view my success as vital to the beneficent outworking of life. I excuse myself whenever I’m in danger of being associated with an unsuccessful outcome. I work mightily to cast or represent things so as to distance myself from outcomes that are unfavorable, inglorious.
I used to sit in the lunchroom of a place I worked at and watch myself and others converse. I’d watch myself polish my statue, keep my ducks in a row, and keep up a good front by engaging in what I came to call “howdido” conversations. This kind of conversation sees us tell and retell the day’s events in a manner that successively whittles down any reference to our own mistakes, losses, and failures and retains only our own part in successes, gains, and wins.
We constantly ask our conversational partner, whether directly or indirectly, “How did I do?” And, if they operate self-servingly, they conspire with us to feed back to us that we did great – whatever anyone else did. When we have our story right where we want it, then we cease our howdido conversation on that topic and move on to the next.
What we come up with as a result of this kind of image management, this kind of sanitization of life, because that’s what it is, as far as I can see, is what many of us call our “story.” History becomes boiled down to our “story.” It’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Instead of life becoming about the truth of ourselves or whatever happened, it becomes about defending our story and selling it to others.
Werner Erhard used to say that life lived this way becomes about dominating and avoiding being dominated, judging and avoiding being judged, and excusing ourselves while not excusing others. I would think the totality of what I’ve just said fairly much represents and typifies a separative life lived in duality.
In duality, we gossip about others and defend ourselves from whatever gossip we chance to hear about ourselves. We gossip about them but are outraged at the very thought that others may be gossiping about us. We work away at all the rough edges, not of ourselves, but of our story. And we collect around us friends who will engage with us in ways that serve that same image and story.
And that is the round of life that we’re leaving, hopefully – and if we do.
What does such a round of life leave us with? It leaves us feeling self-righteous. We are right and others are wrong. Werner used to say that it leaves us feeling dead-right because there is no aliveness in life lived this way.
We turn ourselves into a god and then worship before the statue of ourselves. And everything we do becomes a rite of worship before the god of self.
I’m watching my own ego rise up. I’m watching myself be indignant at things that don’t go my way. I see myself trying to whitewash my mistakes and represent myself to you in ways that have me come off looking good.
Put out the brushfires. Offset the bad buzz. Distinguish all who attack me as being somehow deficient or off. Yawwwnnnnn….
As Werner said, there’s no aliveness in life lived this way. Even if I were to say to you, I don’t want to live my life this way, I’d suspect myself of image management, of wanting to look good. I think it might be better to simply remain silent.
Life lived for self, life lived by way of image management, life lived according to the self-serving bias simply has no future any more, no promise of aliveness. More of it won’t be better. But not like I know what will take its place.
Oh yes, I could represent myself to you as knowing. “Oh, yes, I know. It’s called unitive consciousness. Yes, that’s the ticket.”
But I actually don’t know. I mean really know. I’m as much in a process of discovery of what way of being will take the place of the self-serving bias as anyone else. I’m not sure I’m even at the place of “not knowing,” which is itself a high place, above the line between unconscious and conscious awareness. I think I’m more at the place of just being tired of my own self-servingness. Just tired of it. Like one more round of my own self-servingness just won’t do it for me any more.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this coming month will make it harder and harder, and more and more costly, to be self-serving and I’ll be weaned of it, quietly or kicking and screaming, along with the rest of us who are embracing the new energies. Whether the passage is smooth or rough, it will happen, I feel very sure.
The only thing I can make out, if even dimly, is the necessity of letting go of it sooner rather than later, and then forgiving myself for living by that code for so long. How does one acknowledge that one has had it wrong for so long, without wallowing in self-pity or preening one’s own image even here?
I just don’t know.